Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Toast To Paris and to the people of France...

 It didn't take me long to see that a 2-day visit to Paris 30 years ago, was just a peek, a glimpse. If that.

Spending more than a week there last month let me see just how much I missed the first time around.

Not just the increased time there, but the long walks, sidewalk cafes, constant attention-grabbers, diversity everywhere you looked and a smug feeling I was really getting into the spirit and rhythm of the city .

The first thing I noticed when I left Charleston and landed in Paris at CDG (Charles De Gaulle)...

The weather was cooler and the humidity was low.

The French really know how to make you feel welcome! Especially in the Summer.

As I walked towards the famed pyramids in front of the Louvre, I thought for a moment that they were gone. Poof!

Then I realized there was a huge image - in black & white - showing the building behind.

What a stunning concept. Stand in the perfect spot and everything lined up perfectly.

Everywhere, there were reminders of heightened security after several vicious terrorist attacks in Europe.

Seeing heavy police presence and armed soldiers on duty, patrolling and protecting the city, its people, and its treasures was comforting.

 Inside the Louvre, one better have a plan.

There is so much to see so make a list and scope out where the galleries are located.

Of course, others may have the same plan but, be patient. Crowds ebb and flow, even in front of the famed Mona Lisa.  I DID - eventually - get right up front. Nobody shouted "Smile!"

As a bonus while inside Notre Dame, a choir of young ladies (nuns?) assembled and sang a few hymns.

I set my camera on video to capture their voices as their joyful music echoed around the huge interior of the beautiful church.

Lots of museums, churches and palaces in and around Paris.

Overlooking the city from Montmartre, the highest point, is the Sacre Coeur, the Sacred Heart Basilica.

A taxi was needed for the long hike up there.

Crowds were massed on the stairs leading up the final incline.

This offered some very good scenes for my camera.

I spotted two ladies sharing a patterned parasol for shade.

I concentrated on making them the focal point as I looked out over the city from this elevation.

That is an excellent idea I try to fulfill - getting up high and seeing the overall view - when I travel.

Another is to take a city tour, noting places and images I want to come back to and spend more time.

I never had THIS view of the steps inside the Arc de Triomphe.

Luckily my buddy, who planned most of the trip, found there is an elevator option.

It got a bit complicated finding the right person to authorize me to forego climbing the 289 steps to the top.

Once that person was located, it was a quick trip up in the elevator and he then apologized that I had to climb the final 46 steps to the Terrasse, with its panoramic view of Paris.

Looking west, in a direct line from the Arc, is LaGrande Arche de la Defense.

(Mostly) opened in 1989, this white modern square* is a salute to peace.

It provides a reverse view of the AXE, the series of monuments standing in a straight line.

In 1944, the Arc was the center point of a WWII victory parade.

This honored the French hero-General Charles de Gaulle.

Today, that Champs-Elysees parade route is filled with expensive shops and stores.

My camera tried to capture an interesting juxtaposition of "then and now."

This is the front of the Paris City Hall.

The colorful rainbow banners are in place for the upcoming Gay Pride Week in the city.

Dining "inside a clock" is a quirky feature of the Mussee d'Orsay.

The former train station was converted into an excellent display of paintings and sculpture.

It warrants a long visit and perhaps a meal behind one of the two massive clocks that face the Seine.

Each evening we are greeted at out apartment by a wise pigeon who perches on our balcony railing.

It is the same distinctive one who knows our place has changing tenants who need to be reminded to put out food when they leave for the day.

We complied and each evening, the tasty dry cereal is gone. That is a very plump pigeon.

(Click on the photos and links for more details.)

I enjoy looking at these photos and reliving an excellent visit overseas. Hope you have a similar pleasure in seeing them.

*Oh, here's a view of the "other" Arche in West Paris:

 Au Revoir.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

I "Kilt" them in Scotland.

During a changing-of-the-guard at Edinburgh's Castle, I wondered if I was being watched?

I had wandered up the hill, crossed the Esplanade (drill field) and entered through the spiked front gate.

Crowds all around me snapped photos and dodged quick bursts of rain, amid the military spectacle of this fabled Scottish landmark.

But, could this guard actually see me.... or anyone else?

You can see the Castle from almost all parts of this capital city.

August 5-27, the "temporary" bleachers will be filled nightly as the Military Tattoo is performed on the very ground I had just walked on to reach the entrance.

The guide on a really neat Vintage Bus Tour had explained the bleachers.

They are set up each year for the gala  month-long gathering of pipers and dancers.

"Three months to build, about 30 days of use, and then, disassembled and stored," he said with a delightful heavy brogue.

Later, as I walked and cabbed about the three levels of the city, I saw a reminder of the recent Brexit vote that allowed Britain to leave the European Union.

Scotland, and others in the United Kingdom, had voted to remain.

Looking down, I saw a Scottish version of Charleston's Rainbow Row.

We don't have such a lofty view of our colorful stretch near the Battery.

And we have never had flapping banners hanging overhead.

Another "rainbow" was sighted along the tour route.

This was a salute of LGBT support after the recent massacre in Orlando, Florida.

Back to the Castle for a moment.
Looking over a projecting cannon, I could see that our balcony room was in the sights.

Well, we had a grand view of the Castle from the balcony so this was not a total surprise.

The occasional rain and wind made holding an umbrella a challenge.

We had opted instead for  two "Mackintosh," waterproof  parkas.

These Macs doubled for warmth when, later, we ventured into the Highlands in search of the Loch Ness Monster.

Paris was definitely a "walking" kind of place.

But, Edinburgh, with its steep hills, gave us many opportunities to hop in and out of a black cab.

The efficient interior reminded me of the old U.S. Checker cabs in NYC.

Saw several buskers, amusing and teasing passersby, demonstrating feats of balance, poise, and concentration.

The Illusionists had apparently found ways to defy gravity.

And fatigue.

I dropped a few pounds into the hat.

A sign I didn't see very often - and then one often ignored by tourists - was a ban  on cameras.

Finally saw one that specifically told us not to use a smartphone camera either.

I saw a LOT of Scotch whisky.

And I tasted a few, so I finally had to ask what was the main difference between 12-year old and a whopping 25-year old Scotch?

"Mainly, the price," I was told.

Ageing took longer so there were fewer to be had. Therefore, a higher cost.

And, speaking of lucky (?), many believed that rubbing the foot of this statue would bring you luck.

I did so because why would I pass up a chance for good fortune?

And, on that upbeat note, I'll stop for now.

Oh, I have plenty more pictures so there will be lots of additional entries. (Click on the photos and links for more details.)

Thanks for riding around in cabs and peering over cannons with me.

Have a wee dram and we'll get back together soon.

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Faces in the crowd...

 Eight days in Paris, you see a LOT of sights.

The Eiffel Tower. The Arc de Triomphe. Notre Dame.

But I also chose some people's faces.

Some are regular "street photos" in a foreign setting.

This ad for a croissant breakfast made me smile.

These young ladies were posing a vertical "selfie" with Notre Dame in the background.

At least I hope some of the grand church made it into their photo.

Most shots like this show just the four faces.
That could have been taken at home back in Ohio.

I think it was nice for this man to put on a bow tie to take his niece to see the Sacre Coeur Basilica.

This street photo happened because I saw his wild hair and zoomed in for a shot.

I was seated in an artsy area and caught a few more stand-out faces to add to my Paris collection.

An obviously very tired merchant had found a quiet spot to catch a few winks.

I was not close enough to hear actual snores but I sense he was approaching REM sleep mode.

A pity he would have to snap awake and get back to tending busy weekend crowds.

This waiter had stepped away from his restaurant to grab a smoke and survey the people passing by his establishment.

Better they would stop, come in and be seated.

Then he could serve them properly and continue the tradition of fine French service and attitude.

But he appears to be a bit judgmental.

These munching faces ABOVE the arches appear to have gone for a Happy Meal experience along the famed Champs d' Elysees.
A small bottle of water there was 3 Euros. Pricey rent I suppose.

Here is a gathering of faces taken with my longest setting of my zoom lens.

I was at the 900-foot level at the top of the Eiffel Tower, looking down at the very large Fan Zone.

These soccer fans filled about 3/4 of the space for 90,000 near the base of the tower. They were watching a quarter-final match being played elsewhere in France.

This is probably the largest "face" I saw this day.

This rhino - and a full-size elephant statue - were on display outside the Musee d'Orsay.

As if it were not imposing enough, I ventured to use a fish eye effect setting on my camera, to make the head and horn even more pronounced. Yes, overkill.

As a final period of people-watching, I present a classic scene of "one day you're the pigeon and another day, you're the statue."

This statue was either very new or had been pressure-washed clean recently.

(Click on the photos and links for more details.)

Thanks for tagging along as I wander around Paris, with my camera.

 Let's stop for a spell at a cafe and have a latte. Maybe even a pastry?

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Thursday, July 07, 2016

Great vacation in Paris and Edinburgh...

Needless to say, a vacation trip out of the country for several weeks, probably should NOT be mentioned in advance.

Bad people really don't need to know your house will be empty.

The police alerted its patrols that nobody should be inside for several weeks.

All of the iconic sites in Paris were subject to my eyes. I started with The Louvre.

At the Arc de Triomphe, I asked and found there WAS an elevator and saved climbing hundreds of steps to the top.

Well worth going up if only to look down at the "interesting" traffic madly circling below!

Months ago, while searching for an AirBnB in Paris, found an 8th-floor apartment that featured a washer/dryer and a balcony.

It was said to be "close" to the Eiffel Tower.

Wow, I'd say.

We would sit on the balcony at night and watch the lights change color (colour?) to represent who had won in the semi-finals of the European Union soccer matches.

This night Italy was honored but, a few days later, it would be eliminated by Germany.

Even when the matches were not being played in Paris, a large Fan Zone area was set up in the shadow of The Tower.

We were told it could accommodate 90,000 chanting, shouting - and drinking - fans who watched the action on two giant JumboTron screens.

There were pleasant cool days and nights overseas, and some spotty rain in Scotland.

Back now in Charleston, I am spending these high nineties days, inside with the AC humming as I work over more than 3,000 images. Yikes.

Having a "flight map" on the screen in front of you adds a nice element to air travel.

Of course,you also can watch movies, tv shows and listen to music.

Nice, soft earplugs are included. I can remember when you paid for the hearing aids. Guess airlines know people expect such amenities now.
 Speaking of treats, tried tasting a single malt whisky or two while in Edinburgh, Scotland..

(Spell check is telling me to add an "e.")

Irish whiskey, sure, but it's Scottish whisky.

25ml servings assure you will sip the sample - with or without adding ice or water. Feel the burn.

I still prefer a Jameson on-the-rocks. That's a fine whiskey.

I have just touched the surface of my stack of digital memory cards but will stop for now.

Here's an unusual picture I took after touring the Paris Opera House.

Sitting and relaxing, I saw the billboard and gave it a twist.

(Click on the photos and links for more detail.) I have plenty more to share.

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Hmmm, 136 years plus 16....

The H. L. Hunley has been sitting in a large container of water and chemicals for 16 years.

It's close to me, nearby, in a special lab, on the old Navy Base property.

Last Saturday, my brother and I decided to go take a look.

The last time I had seen the Hunley was from a distance, off the Battery, in 2000.

It had been partially buried on the ocean floor, just outside the harbor, for 136 years.

It had been found and raised carefully and that day was the star of an escort flotilla slowly passing by. Many of the boats were flying and waving a Confederate flag.

Now scientists would try to solve the puzzle of why she sank after being the first submarine to sink an enemy warship.

The Hunley was a secret weapon, used in an attempt to break the Union blockade of Charleston, during the Civil War.

This Hunley was the third try at an undersea battle.

The first two tests failed. Five were saved from the first sinking but all 8 crewmen aboard the second had drowned.

I quickly learned that the public is admitted only on Saturday and Sunday noon to 5 pm.

We look down from a raised platform at the vessel immersed in a solution.

This has been successful and much progress has been made in  removing decades of encrustation that built up on the metal parts.

*Both full-view photos of the before and after effects are pictures on display as part of the tour. The tank was filled so I had no chance for such shots.

Our well-informed tour guide Dave told us that during the week, scientists are working inside the drained enclosure.

They are carefully "chipping away" to bring the sub back closer to its original state 150 years ago. 

Dave added that school groups are brought through on weekdays and they may or may not see the tank emptied, depending on what efforts of restoration are being done.

A $20 gold piece, carried by Lt. George Dixon, skipper on that ill-fated voyage, was found among the remains of the crewmen.

The story was that he carried it as a good luck piece after it deflected a bullet during the Battle of Shiloh.

The actual coin is on display as an example of encrusted items found inside the Hunley, that are cleaned and preserved.

This was an easy photo to take.

Another item of interest was a uniform from the U.S.S. Housatonic, the unfortunate target of this new type of underwater warfare.

After being rammed with an explosive near the stern, the ship sank in less than 5 minutes.

Five Union lives were lost- probably at the blast site -  while the others clambered up the masts rigging. The water was only 25 feet deep where it sank.

My brother and I took turns sitting in the open-ended model.

We could grasp the handle that  turned the propeller, but both of us agreed we probably would not have been selected as a crew member because of our large...er, lungs.

(Click on the photos and links for more details.)

Thanks for taking a cruise on the Hunley with us.

Call ahead and arrange to take the tour.

It's safe now to relive that voyage into history.

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